5 Common SharePoint Myths and Misunderstandings

Even today, many SharePoint users misunderstand what the platform is capable of and how it ought to be deployed.

Microsoft rolled out the first version of SharePoint in 2001. Since then, it’s become phenomenally popular – it counted close to 80 per cent of Fortune 500 companies as users in 2011, according to Microsoft’s own figures.

This rapid growth hasn’t come without a few unfortunate side effects, however. Myths and misconceptions are rife among SharePoint users, and not without good reason.
For every employee who’s worked with a useful, well-managed SharePoint site, there might well another who’s been exposed to a clumsy implementation and sworn off the platform for life.

We’ve seen so many mistaken impressions of SharePoint’s capabilities that to compile a complete list would be a mammoth undertaking. That said, some myths are more common than others, whether among end users, business decision-makers or even would-be SharePoint advocates. Here are our top five – have you encountered any of them?

“SharePoint is just a place to store files.”

SharePoint is much more than a document management system. Of course, if you are using it as a document management system, it’s an extremely capable one – not just a place to store files!

Collaboration is central to the SharePoint experience, which puts it a cut above a simple document repository. With features like workflows, the whole process of collecting data, assigning tasks and approving finished documents can be managed automatically. SharePoint’s audit logs can also help an organisation meet any compliance mandates it has to uphold.

This is to say nothing of advanced capabilities like business intelligence, enterprise search and web development – not exactly the built-in functionality of a file storage solution.

“SharePoint is an application for making intranets.”

It’s true that one of the most common reasons companies turn to SharePoint is that they need – or think they need – an intranet. If you want to set up somewhere that employees can discover and share information, and use simple self-service HR forms, then yes – SharePoint can do the job.

It’s so much more than that besides, though. SharePoint isn’t an application – it’s a platform, a framework on which businesses can build almost anything, from line-of-business systems to executive dashboards to websites. It’s impossible to unlock the full potential of SharePoint without recognising this.

“SharePoint isn’t suitable for line-of-business systems.”

As above, there’s a common misconception that SharePoint isn’t suitable for line-of-business systems, only non-critical file stores or support portals. This isn’t true – the platform can be integrated with any number of external databases, standalone .NET applications or SAP modules, providing a single location from which all of a company’s mission-critical systems can be administered.

“We need our IT department to manage our SharePoint projects.”

A successful SharePoint project should be led by business needs, and ergo managed and owned by business decision-makers. It’s quite frequent that the opposite happens – someone decides they want an intranet and it falls on the IT department to define scope and administer a rollout.

SharePoint was designed to simplify internal processes, putting them back in the hands of end users. If rank-and-file workers aren’t recognised as key stakeholders, any implementation is destined to fail.

“We need SharePoint because everyone else has it.”

A final unfortunate side effect of SharePoint’s ubiquity is that many rollouts aren’t driven by end user demands, but simply due to someone having decided that the company needs an implementation because everyone else has one.

Just about any business can benefit from SharePoint, but many report negative experiences with the platform. This is almost always because they’ve had to work with a site that was dreamed up without so much as an inkling of the end users’ needs – it was seen as a necessity because everyone else has one!

As mentioned, this is a far from exhaustive list. But almost any SharePoint user will have encountered – and might even be guilty of – at least one of these misconceptions. Can you think of any others?